Genetic fingerprinting reveals natal origins of male leatherback turtles encountered in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea
- 354 Downloads
Understanding population dynamics in broadly distributed marine species with cryptic life history stages is challenging. Information on the population dynamics of sea turtles tends to be biased toward females, due to their accessibility for study on nesting beaches. Males are encountered only at sea; there is little information about their migratory routes, residence areas, foraging zones, and population boundaries. In particular, male leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) are quite elusive; little is known about adult and juvenile male distribution or behavior. The at-sea distribution of male turtles from different breeding populations is not known. Here, 122 captured or stranded male leatherback turtles from the USA, Turkey, France, and Canada (collected 1997–2012) were assigned to one of nine Atlantic basin populations using genetic analysis with microsatellite DNA markers. We found that all turtles originated from western Atlantic nesting beaches (Trinidad 55%, French Guiana 31%, and Costa Rica 14%). Although genetic data for other Atlantic nesting populations were represented in the assignment analysis (St. Croix, Brazil, Florida, and Africa (west and south), none of the male leatherbacks included in this study were shown to originate from these populations. This was an unexpected result based on estimated source population sizes. One stranded turtle from Turkey was assigned to French Guiana, while others that were stranded in France were from Trinidad or French Guiana breeding populations. For 12 male leatherbacks in our dataset, natal origins determined from the genetic assignment tests were compared to published satellite and flipper tag information to provide evidence of natal homing for male leatherbacks, which corroborated our genetic findings. Our focused study on male leatherback natal origins provides information not previously known for this cryptic, but essential component of the breeding population. This method should provide a guideline for future studies, with the ultimate goal of improving management and conservation strategies for threatened and endangered species by taking the male component of the breeding population into account.
Samples were collected under ESA Section 10(a)(1)(A) permits issued by NMFS to the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (#1260, #1324, #1429 and #1552) and the University of New Hampshire (#1557 and #15672). These samples were imported from the high seas under the authority of the USFWS CITES Permit #US045532/9. Sample collection in Nova Scotia, Canada, was supported by funding from Canadian Wildlife Federation, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (USA), National Marine Fisheries Service (USA), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and World Wildlife Fund Canada. Funding for US samples was provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance. Funding support for this analysis and for Kelly R. Stewart was provided by a Lenfest Ocean Program Grant. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Lenfest Ocean Program or The Pew Charitable Trusts. We thank the Aquarium La Rochelle SAS Network and the Centre d’Etudes et de Soins pour les Tortues Marines for coordinating collection of samples from the Atlantic French Network: Réseau Tortues Marines Atlantique Est. For help with sample collection at sea in Canada, we thank S. Craig, B. Fricker, H. Fricker, J. Fricker, W. George, B. Mitchell, and M. Nicholson. We also thank D. Archibald, L. Bennett, C. Harvey-Clark, and K. Martin for stranding response and sample preparation in Canada. We are grateful to M. Lutcavage, A. Myers, C. Merigo, C. Innis, T. Norton, M. Dodge, G. Purmont, M. Leach, B. Sharp, S. Landry, T. Sheehan, V. Saba, M. Murphy, G. Tomasian, N. Fragoso, K. Sampson, R. Smolowitz, K. Hirokawa, J. Casey, S. Leach, J. Wilson, and E. Eldredge for associated field assistance in the USA. We thank the following individuals and organizations: in the USA, Lisa Belskis, Wendy Teas, Kate Sardi Sampson, Donna Shaver, Bob Prescott, Anthony Amos, and Sara McNulty, New England Aquarium and Center for Coastal Studies, and in Turkey, Ertan Taskavak. For laboratory, technical, and logistical assistance at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, we thank Gabriela Serra-Valente, Amy Lanci, Amy Frey, Robin LeRoux, Amanda Bowman, and Victoria Pease. Thoughtful review and ideas that contributed to the original draft were provided by Michael Jensen and Amy Frey, while Erin LaCasella contributed maps made using Maptool at seaturtle.org. We sincerely thank the reviewers of this paper as well as the handling editor.
Compliance with ethical standards
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Bannister N, Holland J, Farrelly T (2016) Nest site fidelity of flatback Turtles (‘Natator depressus’) on Bare Sand Island, Northern Territory, Australia. North Territ Nat 27:47–53Google Scholar
- Billes A, Fretey J, Verhage B et al (2006) First evidence of leatherback movement from Africa to South America. Mar Turt Newsl 111:13–14Google Scholar
- Casale P, Freggi D, Cinà A, Rocco M (2012) Spatio-temporal distribution and migration of adult male loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean Sea: further evidence of the importance of neritic habitats off North Africa. Mar Biol 160:703–718. doi: 10.1007/s00227-012-2125-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Chacón-Chaverri D, Eckert KL (2007) Leatherback sea turtle nesting at Gandoca Beach in Caribbean Costa Rica: management recommendations from fifteen years of conservation. Chelonian Conserv Biol 6:101–110. doi:10.2744/1071-8443(2007)6[101:LSTNAG]2.0.CO;2Google Scholar
- Davenport J (1997) Temperature and the life-history strategies of sea turtles. J Therm Biol 22:479–488. doi:10.1016/S0306-4565(97)00066-1Google Scholar
- Dizon AE, Balazs GH (1982) Radio telemetry of Hawaiin green turtles at their breeding colony. Mar Fish 44:13–20Google Scholar
- Dutton PH (1995) Molecular evolution of sea turtles with special reference to the leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea. Dissertation, Texas A&M University, College StationGoogle Scholar
- Geldiay R, Koray T, Balik S (1995) Status of sea turtle populations (Caretta caretta and Chelonia mydas) in the Northern Mediterranean Sea, Turkey. In: Bjorndal KA (ed) Biology and conservation of sea turtles, Revised edn. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., pp 425–434Google Scholar
- Groombridge B (1990) Marine turtles in the Mediterranean: distribution, population status, conservation. A report to the Council of Europe, Environment Conservation and Management DivisionGoogle Scholar
- Innis CJ, Merigo C, Cavin JM, Hunt K, Dodge KL, Lutcavage M (2014) Serial assessment of the physiological status of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) during direct capture events in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean: comparison of post-capture and pre-release data. Conserv Physiol. doi: 10.1093/conphys/cou048 Google Scholar
- Kalinowski ST, Manlove KR, Taper ML (2007) ONCOR: a computer program for genetic stock identification. Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. www.montana.edu/kalinowski/Software/ONCOR.htm. Accessed 26 Sept 2014
- Levy Y, King R, Aizenberg I (2005) Holding a live leatherback turtle in Israel: lessons learned. Mar Turt Newsl 107:7–8Google Scholar
- Maniatis T, Fritsch E, Sambrook J (1982) Molecular cloning laboratory manual. Cold Spring Harbor Press, Cold SpringGoogle Scholar
- Murphy TM, Murphy SR, Griffin DB, Hope CP (2006) Recent occurrence, spatial distribution, and temporal variability of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in nearshore waters of South Carolina, USA. Chelonian Conserv Biol 5:216–224. doi:10.2744/1071-8443(2006)5[216:ROSDAT]2.0.CO;2Google Scholar
- Ordoñez C, Troëng S, Meylan A, Meylan P, Ruiz A (2007) Chiriqui Beach, Panama, the most important leatherback nesting beach in Central America. Chelonian Conserv Biol 6:122–126. doi:10.2744/1071-8443(2007)6[122:CBPTMI]2.0.CO;2Google Scholar
- Rees AF, Saad A, Jony M (2004) First record of a leatherback turtle in Syria. Mar Turt Newsl 106:13Google Scholar
- Schofield G, Hobson VJ, Fossette S, Lilley MKS, Katselidis KA, Hays GC (2010) Biodiversity research: fidelity to foraging sites, consistency of migration routes and habitat modulation of home range by sea turtles. Divers Distrib 16:840–853. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2010.00694.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Shamblin BM, Bolten AB, Abreu-Grobois FA, Bjorndal KA, Cardona L et al (2014) Geographic patterns of genetic variation in a broadly distributed marine vertebrate: new insights into loggerhead turtle stock structure from expanded mitochondrial DNA sequences. PLoS One 9(1):e85956. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085956 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sönmez B, Sammy D, Yalçın-Özdilek Ş, Gönenler Ö, Açıkbaş U, Ergün Y, Kaska Y (2008) A stranded leatherback sea turtle in the northeastern Mediterranean, Hatay, Turkey. Mar Turt Newsl 119:12–13Google Scholar
- Stewart KR, Johnson C, Godfrey MH (2007) The minimum size of leatherbacks at reproductive maturity, with a review of sizes for nesting females from the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Ocean basins. Herpetol J 17:123–128Google Scholar
- Taskavak E, Boulon RH Jr, Atatur MK (1998) An unusual stranding of a leatherback turtle in Turkey. Mar Turt Newsl 80:13Google Scholar